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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Psychotrauma and effective treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers and peacekeepers

Karin Vitzthum12*, Stefanie Mache1, Ricarda Joachim3, David Quarcoo1 and David A Groneberg1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Occupational Medicine, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Free University Berlin and Humboldt-University Berlin, Thielallee 69-73, D-14195 Berlin, Germany

2 Department of Respiratory Medicine, Hanover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Straße 1, 30625 Hanover, Germany

3 Center of Occupational Medicine, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Free University Berlin and Humboldt-University Berlin, Augustenburger Platz 1, D-13353 Berlin, Germany

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2009, 4:21  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-4-21

Published: 30 July 2009

Abstract

Psychotrauma occurs as a result to a traumatic event, which may involve witnessing someone's actual death or personally experiencing serious physical injury, assault, rape and sexual abuse, being held as a hostage, or a threat to physical or psychological integrity. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder and was defined in the past as railway spine, traumatic war neurosis, stress syndrome, shell shock, battle fatigue, combat fatigue, or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). If untreated, post-traumatic stress disorder can impair relationships of those affected and strain their families and society. Deployed soldiers are especially at a high risk to be affected by PTSD but often receive inadequate treatment. Reviews to date have focused only on a single type of treatment or groups of soldiers from only one country. The aim of the current review was to evaluate characteristics of therapeutic methods used internationally to treat male soldiers' PTSD after peacekeeping operations in South Eastern Europe and the Gulf wars.

This systematic literature review returned results pertaining to the symptoms, diagnosis, timing and effectiveness of treatment. Sample groups and controls were relatively small and, therefore, the results lack generalizability. Further research is needed to understand the influence and unique psychological requirements of each specific military operation on the internationally deployed soldiers.